Erik ten Hag had his inaugural press conference as the Manchester United manager on Monday afternoon where he spoke about getting the club back to their glory days. Those betting on football next season will be waiting on United’s transfer activity to play out before deciding whether to back the club, but the manager is already confident about the future.
The Dutch tactician seemed convinced that he can get the club challenging for the Premier League title while putting an end to the dominance of Manchester City and Liverpool.
He told reporters: “I admire them both, Manchester City and Liverpool. They both play fantastic football. But you will always see an era come to an end. I’ve already met big coaches and big teams in the Premier League and I know how to deal with that.”
His opening statements have gone well with many United fans, but it can’t be denied that there is a huge rebuilding job ahead after the club finished only sixth in the standings.
At the start of last season, there was talk about a possible title challenge, but 35-point gap to champions City, gives a clear indication over the vast room for improvement required.
United undoubtedly have match-winners with Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes and Jadon Sancho to name a few, but their collective performance has been unconvincing.
This is something which Ten Hag will seek to improve. An early pre-season from June 27 clearly shows what the Dutchman feels about the current squad. The focus could be on improving the work rate as Ten Hag intends on playing an attacking brand of football with regular high pressing.
United have yet to finalise any new signings for next season, but there could be a change in strategy this summer with the priority likely to be given to emerging talents with potential over big-name marquee players.
In this case, we could rule out the prospect of someone like Harry Kane ending up at Old Trafford. A player such as Hugo Ekitike could instead be on the club’s radar after a promising breakthrough season at Reims.
Ten Hag may also want to pursue a few players from his former club Ajax. The 52-year-old has not hidden his admiration for Jurrien Timber and Antony, and he recently touted the former to become a future club captain.
Timber is highly-rated for his tackling skills and distribution. Having been a mainstay in the Ajax set-up for the past two years, Ten Hag may well eye a reunion with the 20-year-old central defender.
The Dutchman seems to have a clear transfer strategy in mind, and has already hinted that he may not consult Ralf Rangnick, insisting that he will analyse by himself and ‘draw his own line’ when making decisions.
Next season will provide a huge test of Ten Hag’s credentials. Ajax were thoroughly dominant in the Eredivisie under him, but he faces a whole different challenge with United being outsiders for the title.
It may take a few transfer windows for Ten Hag to build his own squad capable of winning the league. Hence, fans should not expect much in this aspect, but ending the club’s five-year trophy drought could be a realistic aim.
The League Cup, FA Cup and Europa League present United with genuine chances to do so. The club are currently on their worst trophy drought in four decades. Ten Hag has the chance to enhance his reputation further with a piece of silverware in his debut managerial season at United.
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